Iowa men’s basketball set to open regular season Monday against Bethune-Cookman

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.


Gabby Drees

Iowa forward Kris Murray enters a men’s exhibition basketball game between Iowa and Truman State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. After his twin, Keegan Murray, was picked up by the Sacremento Kings in the NBA Draft, Kris played his first Iowa game without Keegan on the roster. Murray led the team in points with 24. Iowa defeated Truman State, 118-72.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa men’s basketball team will open its regular season on Monday night at 6 p.m. at  Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Bethune-Cookman. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

The Hawkeyes defeated Division II Truman State, 118-72, in an exhibition game on Oct. 31 and have won 11 consecutive season-openers.

Despite the 46-point win last week, Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery said he’s looking for his team to make defensive improvements in the first-ever meeting between Iowa and Bethune-Cookman.

“There were some defensive breakdowns,” McCaffery said of the exhibition game at a zoom press conference Tuesday. “There was times were really good defensively, but I don’t think we were as consistent as we could have been.”

McCaffery said one of the main reasons why he scheduled the exhibition game against Truman State was to test his defense against Bulldogs’ head coach Jeff Hoerner’s offense. Hoerner was a Hawkeye guard from 2006-10.

“Jeff [Hoerner] runs really good stuff,” McCaffery said. “That’s why that was a really good game for us. That’s why I wanted to play them as opposed to maybe some other teams that wouldn’t be as disciplined or I think is concentrated on execution against us. I mean, they were really trying to run their stuff.

“There were some times where we really did a good job, and there were times when we didn’,t so that’s why you play that game. The competition gets harder and harder as you move forward, and that obviously starts with the Bethune-Cookman.”

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball freshmen contribute in exhibition win

Bethune-Cookman went 9-21 last season but added eight transfers ahead of 2022-23. Joe French, the Wildcats’ leading scorer from a year ago, is set to return for his junior year. The 6-foot-5 guard from Orlando averaged 15.8 points per game as a sophomore.

“They have a lot of guys back, but they also signed a good number of guys,” McCaffery said of Bethune-Cookman. “… You have a great ability, I think, to look at what you have, and then add what you think you need, because there’s just such a huge available pool of players out there. And I think that’s what [Bethune-Cookman head coach Reggie Theus] did… I think it’s a team that’s going to be really good and I think they’re going to challenge us.”

After Hawkeye junior guard Ahron Ulis was suspended for the exhibition game versus Truman State, because of his role in an Oct. 2 altercation in Iowa City, McCaffery said Ulis will be in action Monday.

The Chicago native averaged 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while coming off the bench in 35 games as a sophomore.

With the departure of former Hawkeye guards Jordan Bohannon and Joe Toussiant, Ulis will likely play a larger role for the Hawkeyes this season.

“He’s been playing really well,” McCaffery said of Ulis. “I would expect him to play like a veteran. Really good at both ends of the floor. Obviously very good in our system with his speed and athleticism, so I’m excited for him.”

The men’s game against Bethune-Cookman is the first contest of an Iowa basketball home doubleheader. The women’s team will take on Southern about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the men’s game.